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MISSOURI WILDLIFE HARVEST AND POPULATION STATUS REPORT 

WILD TURKEY - 2008 

Thomas V. Dailey, Ph.D. 

Resource Scientist 

1110 South College Avenue 

Columbia, MO 65201 

573-882-9909 Ext. 3278 

tom.dailey @ mdc.mo.gov 

2008 Spring Turkey Season 

Harvest during the 2008 spring season included 2,898 turkeys checked during the 2-day 
youth portion and 43,416 checked during the three-week season for a total of 46,314, down 4.4% 
from last season (Table 1). With good weather on opening day, hunters checked about 1,000 
more birds on opening day this year than they did in 2007, but the remainder of the season fell 
behind the pace of the 2007 harvest. The 2008 harvest is the 1 1th largest on record, but the 
smallest since 1997. This decline was expected because of poor poult production over the past 
few years. Juveniles comprised 17% of the 2008 harvest, reflecting the below average hatch in 
2007. 

Total permit sales for spring turkey hunting were 1 15,047 and 47,415 landowner permits 
were issued. Prior to 2006, we did not require landowners to purchase or obtain a permit, and, 
therefore landowner numbers were unknown. During spring of 2008 about 12% of landowner 
turkey permit holders also purchased a spring turkey permit. Therefore, assuming all landowners 
who received landowner turkey permits actually hunted turkeys on their land, our estimated 
number of turkey hunters (including landowners) is 156,768. The number of nonresident turkey 
hunting permits issued was 8,228, a slight decrease from 8,988 sold in 2007. Top counties in the 
2008 spring turkey season were Franklin County with 838 turkeys checked, Texas County with 
801, and Osage County with 696. 

2008 Brood Survey 

The 2008 statewide pouh-to-hen ratio of 1.06 is 4.9% below last year, and 23.7%, 40.7%, 
and 43.3%) below the 5-, 10-, and 48-year averages, respectively (Table 2). Our volunteer 
observers saw few broods in June, which was expected because of the cool, wet, and late spring. 
The poor poult production of the last two years, 1 poult per hen, is near the record low of 0.8 
poults per hen counted in 1960. However, because of the large population of mature turkeys 
today, Missouri still had >400,000 turkeys last spring. 

Across turkey production regions, poult-to-hen ratios ranged from a low of 0.72 in the 
West Prairie to a high of 1.33 in the Union Breaks (Table 2, Figure 1). 



2008 Fall Firearms Turkey Season 

Fall turkey hunting participation typically tracks summer poult production. With a second 
straight year of near record low poult production (1 poult per hen), we expected harvest to 
decrease. The faU 2008 harvest of 7,391 turkeys by 17,532 permit holders (267 of which were 
nonresidents) continues the recent downward trend in fall turkey hunting (Figure 2). Juvenile 
turkeys comprised 55% of the harvest in 2008. 

Population Index 

Since 1983, volunteer archers have recorded the number of wild turkeys, deer, and 
fiirbearers seen while bow hunting during October and November. On a statewide basis, the 
number of wild turkey sightings per 1,000 hours of bow-hunting in 2007 was 460, which is 10% 
below the previous 16-year average of 513. 

Spring turkey harvest, age structure in the spring harvest, population indices, hunter 
success, and hunter opinions provide the information needed to determine the quality of spring 
turkey hunting. These data are reviewed annually by the Regulations Committee. 

Restoration 

Turkey translocation has not occurred since the winter of 2006-07 when 100 birds were 
released in the Mississippi Lowlands region. 

Regulation Changes 

The Missouri Conservation Commission approved an opening day formula change for the 
spring turkey season in 2007. Previously the opening day of spring turkey season was the 
Monday closest to 21 April. The new opening date formula is the 3"^ Monday in April. The 
formula change was an attempt to balance hunter desires with the biology of turkey reproduction. 
The 3^^ Monday formula resulted in the 2007 season opening earlier than any modem season. 
Overall, the minor formula change will give us an earlier season opener during 8 years and a 
similar opening date as the previous formula during 12 of the next 20 years. Youth season will 
open earlier during 7 of the next 20 years. During 2 of the next 20 years, the opening date of the 
youth season will occur on 3 1 March in order to avoid conflict with Easter. Our earlier opener 
did allow us to show our responsiveness to hunters and seemed to be favored by hunters, 
although the weather this past spring resulted in some complaints about the season being too 
early. For 2009, the proposed seasons are 4-5 April for youth, and 20 April to 10 May for the 
regular season. The Conservation Commission approved all-day hunting for the spring youth 
season, beginning in 2008. 

Hunter Harvest and Opinion Survey 

The MDC 2008 spring post-season mail survey suggests hunter attitudes and practices 
have not dramatically changed over the last few years. Forty-two percent of hunters chose 
"good" or "excellent" to describe their turkey hunting experience, and 85%) reported very little 



or no problem with interference from other turkey hunters. The lack of interference stems partly 
from the fact that 80% of respondents hunted on private land. About 65% of hunters chose "very 
satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" in a question about spring turkey season regulations. 

The 2008 spring turkey hunter survey revealed that support for all day hunting continues 
to be strong. Sixty-two percent of respondents were in favor of all day hunting for the regular 
season and 26%) were opposed. The popularity of the all-day hunting for the 2008 youth 
weekend showed a substantial increase compared to a similar question asked in 2000. Favorable 
responses were 67% in 2008 and 48% in 2000. Most importantly, 90% of youth hunters were in 
favor of continuing all day hunting. Despite the poor weather throughout much of the 2008 
youth spring hunting weekend, 47%) of survey respondents hunted before and after 1 p.m. on the 
first day and 43% hunted before and after 1 p.m. on the second day. 

Gobbling Study 

The amount of gobbling activity is a very important to spring turkey hunting quality. 
Over the past two years several hundred dedicated volunteers have collected data from mid- 
March to mid-May. Gobbling rates have varied considerably across years and regions (Figure 
3), with some variation likely caused by major weather patterns. There was more gobbling in 
2007 than in 2008, possibly because of the wintery spring weather in 2008. hi the southern 
regions, the 2008 gobbling peaks were about 2 weeks later than in 2007, also likely a reflection 
of the late spring. Gobbling activity peaked twice in the south each year, but this classic pattern 
was weaker in the middle and north regions. There was much more gobbling (gobbles per 20- 
minute observation per week) in the north, with 2007 and 2008 peaks of 70 and 49 in the north, 
39 and 28 in the middle regions, and 32 and 28 in the south, respectively. The timing of hunting 
season dates is intended to take advantage of a potential second peak in gobbling. Depending on 
the year, hunting seasons overlap portions of study weeks 5-8, a period when much gobbling is 
occurring (Figure 3). The gobbling study will continue through 201 1, and new volunteers are 
added each February — go to http://www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/turkey/gobblecount.htm for more 
information. 

Acknowledgements 

The success of Missouri's turkey management program depends on contributions from many 
individuals. Thanks to the many citizen volunteers and MDC staff who collect field data for the 
brood survey, archery survey and the gobbling study. The various turkey reports the Department 
produces are an MDC team effort with assistance from the following individuals: Jamey Decoske 
coordinates the brood survey and gobbling study; Ron Reitz, Martha McCrary, David Collins, Angela 
Hammond and the rest of the survey staff conduct hunter surveys; Julie Fleming, Sherry Gao, Greg 
Jones, Tom Kulowiec, Fran Lowry, Giancarlo Rhodes, Joel Sartwell and Mike Wallendorf manage 
and analyze data; and Linda Truesdell prepares final documents. Missouri's comprehensive approach to 
turkey management is made possible by this team effort. 



Table 1. Missouri 


spring turkey season harvest and permit sales, 1986-2008. 


Year 


Spring Harvest 


% Change 

From Previous 

Year 


Spring Permit 
Sales 


% Change From 
Previous Year 


2008 


46,314 


-4.4 


115,047^ 


-0.7 


2007 


48,472 


-11 


115,897^ 


+1.2 


2006 


54,712 


-5.2 


114,529^ 


-4.8 


2005 


57,743 


-5.2 


120,215 


-3.5 


2004 


60,744 


+3.9 


124,533 


-4.2 


2003 


58,421 


+2.4 


130,021 


+3.8 


2002 


57,034 


-1.3 


125,157 


+6.3 


2001 


57,842^* 


+1.7 


117,736^= 


+2.2 


2000 


56,841 


+13.0 


115,190^= 


+3.8 


1999 


50,299 


+3.8 


110,939^= 


+5.1 


1998" 


48,462 


+45.9 


105,518 


+5.6 


1997' 


33,216 


-12.4 


99,933 


+0.1 


1996 


37,708 


+0.3 


99,879 


+0.5 


1995 


37,472 


-1.2 


99,412 


+8.8 


1994 


37,721 


+9.8 


90,810 


0.0 


1993 


34,354 


+4.0 


89,899 


+0.1 


1992 


33,035 


+2.5 


89,803 


+0.8 


1991 


32,237 


+7.3 


89,077 


-3.3 


1990'' 


30,056 


-15.6 


92,093 


-0.9 


1989 


35,618 


+7.3 


92,901 


-1.5 


1988 


33,187 


-7.7 


94,301 


+10.0 


1987 


35,951 


+16.1 


85,723 


+9.9 


1986 


30,965 


+25.0 


77,972 


+10.3 



'T'hree-week season, 2 bird bag limit with only 1 the first week and only 1 per day (1998-present) 
Permit fee increase. 

"Two-week season, 2 bird bag limit, 1 bird per week (1986-1997) 
''includes 2 day Youth-only spring season 

''Includes Youth Deer and Turkey hunting permits issued by end of spring turkey season 

Beginning in 2006, permit totals include landowner permits for resident and nonresidents; for 2008 about 12% of 
landowners also purchased a statewide permit; thus, estimated total turkey permits distributed for spring 2008 
season was 156,768. 



Table 2. Index (ratio of poults per hen) of Missouri turkey production during June -August in 
2008 and previous intervals. For each year interval, the % change indicates how the 2008 index 
compares to the previous year, or the average for periodic intervals. The survey began in 1959, 
so the "Previous All Years" includes 1959-2007. Production regions are depicted in Figure 1. 



Production Region 


2008 
Index 


2-year 
(2007- 
2008) 

% change 


5-year 

(2003- 

2007) 

% change 


10-year 

(1998- 

2007) 

% change 


Previous 
All Years 
% change 


Northwest 


0.96 


-3.8% 


-29.7% 


-45.2% 


-47.3% 


Northeast 


1.11 


27.5% 


-22.6% 


-37.1% 


-46.2% 


Lindley Breaks 


1.07 


12.7% 


-22.7% 


-44.0% 


-48.9% 


Union Breaks 


1.33 


37.8% 


-5.7% 


-25.1% 


-25.9% 


Mississippi Lowlands 


1.07 


-4.6% 


-54.9% 


-61.8% 


-50.6% 


Ozarks East 


1.30 


8.3% 


-23.6% 


-36.0% 


-35.9% 


Ozarks West 


1.01 


-23.9% 


-28.6% 


-42.0% 


-42.9% 


Ozark Border 


0.92 


-19.4% 


-27.5% 


-50.5% 


-52.1% 


West Prairie 


0.72 


2.6% 


-40.5% 


-55.6% 


-63.9% 


STATEWIDE 


1.06 


4.9% 


-23.7% 


-40.7% 


-43.3% 




Missouri Turkey Production Regions 



Turlcey Regions 

' Lindley Breaks 
Mississippi Lov.r|ands 

Noftheasl 

'^^^ Northwest 
CZ^ Ozark Bonder 

* Ozarks East 
C^ Ozarks West 

v« ^ Union Breaks 

' West Prairie 



^&k. 



Figure 1 . Missouri wild turkey production regions. 

5 



Missouri Fall Firearms Season Turkey Harvest and Permit Sales 

1978-2008 



55,000 



50,000 
45.000 
40,000 



135.000 



30.000 



■5 25,000 



m 



20.000 



15.000 



10.000 



5.000 



-Hatvest 



Resident Pel niit Sales 




1977 1980 1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 



Figure 2. Estimate of Missouri fall firearms turkey harvest and permits sold from 1978 to 
2008. 



Note: Various changes in regulations influence the trends in harvest and permit sales, 
including: (1) In 1986 the bag limit was increased from 1 to 2 birds; (2) Permit cost 
increased in 1990; (3) New permit types in 1996 and 1997 ("all conservation" and "all 
hunting") that include fall firearms turkey hunting privileges make comparisons with other 
years less meaningful. Although permit sales went up in 1996 and 1997 when compared to 
1995, a higher proportion of permit buyers (those buying the "all conservation" and "all 
hunting" permit types) did not hunt. These permit types were eliminated in 1998; and (4) 
In 2005, fall turkey regulations were liberalized to allow hunters to take both fall birds on 
the same day and season length was increased from 14 to 31 days. 



2007SoiitlEmRegK)iis 
Southern Regcns 




2 3 4 5 6 7 

Study week (beginning Marcli 17 in 2007 & Maitli 15 in 2008) 




2 3 4 5 6 7 

Study week (begitining March 17 in 2007 & March 15 in 2008) 



20(l7Midilk:fcgioiii 

■ ■ ■lOOSMiddtRojoiB 



30 




2 3 4 5 6 7 

Study week (beginning March 17 in 2007 & March 15 in 2008) 




Figure 3. Estimated number of gobbles heard in Missouri per 20-minute observation per week 
from mid-March to mid-May. Data are divided geographically among MDC regions from south 
to north. Southern group includes Southeast, Ozark and Southwest regions, middle group 
includes Kansas City, Central and St. Louis regions and north group includes Northeast and 
Northwest regions. Regular hunting seasons began April 16, 2007 (week 5) and April 21, 2008 
(Week 6).